Diesel Engine Maintenance: The Basics
A well-maintained diesel engine can serve your business for many years. While these machines are widely known for their superior durability and high-quality performance, they can begin to wear down during their normal use. To keep your engine running at its best, getting routine diesel engine maintenance is essential. Here are some simple maintenance tips every business owner should know to care for a diesel engine.
1. Get Timely Oil Changes
Most manufacturers recommend changing oil every 3-5,000 miles or so. You may need to do this more often in severe driving conditions, such as:
- Extremely hot or cold weather
- Frequent stop-go driving in traffic
- Towing trailers or other heavy vehicles regularly
Oil degrades over time, making it less effective at its job. Without periodic changes, the oil will thicken, creating sludge and other deposits that can have a disastrous effect on your engine. Fresh oil will keep your engine components clean and lubricated. This will help the engine operate more smoothly and maximize its overall lifespan.
2. Check Coolant Level
Coolant plays a huge role in how well your engine runs, so you should monitor your levels closely. When your engine gets overheated, it results in extra wear and tear that could eventually result in operational failure. Even if your coolant levels are okay, you should keep in mind that coolant breaks down over time just like oil does. Flushing and replacing the coolant regularly will ensure your diesel engine has the best quality possible.
3. Change Filters
Your engine works hard, and it needs to be able to breathe through a clean air filter. When filters become clogged, it slows down air flow, which can adversely affect your engine’s performance. A dirty air filter is also less effective at keeping dust and other small particles away from internal parts, which could result in serious damage. Air filters should be cleaned at every maintenance inspection and then replaced if they still look dirty after being cleaned.
You will also need to replace your fuel filters regularly. Most manufacturers recommend doing this every 10-15,000 miles. Fresh fuel filters help to keep your fuel injectors clean of dirt and other grit that could clog them, which would reduce the overall power and fuel efficiency of your engine. Diesels generally have two fuel filters, so you should replace both to ensure your engine continues to run smoothly.
4. Replace Worn Belts
During your regular diesel engine maintenance inspection, you might notice cracks or tears in your engine’s belts. This is a sign that they are beginning to wear down. Belts are used to drive alternators, fans, and other important components, so it’s best to replace them at the first sign of deterioration to avoid potentially serious internal engine damage.
5. Keep Engine Clean
Diesel engines are very powerful machines that can attract a lot of dust and dirt through their normal operation. If the cleanliness of your engine is overlooked, it can lead to a shortened lifespan, reduced efficiency, and declining engine performance over time. The best way to keep your engine clean is by ensuring it has clean filters as well as fresh fuel and oil.
6. Look for Leaks
Undetected leaks can be detrimental to your engine’s performance. Leaks put extra wear and tear on the machine, resulting in reduced power and efficiency. The most common leaks are coolant leaks, fuel hose leaks, and oil leaks. These should be checked out at every maintenance inspection to ensure optimal performance.
7. Cool the Engine
Before beginning any maintenance task, you should turn the engine off and allow it to cool down completely to prevent serious burns. Even a well-maintained diesel engine will generate a certain amount of heat, but you should be concerned if the engine seems to be running hotter than usual. It could be due to a number of issues, from a malfunctioning radiator to clogged fuel injectors. You should shut off the engine and have it inspected right away to prevent further damage to engine parts.
Signs Your Engine Needs Servicing
Your engine should undergo maintenance at regularly scheduled intervals as recommended by the manufacturer, usually around the 3,000-mile mark. However, there are some instances when you might need to service your engine sooner. Here are some signs to look for:
- Check Engine Light:If your check engine light is on, this is usually the first indicator that you need to have the engine inspected. A professional can run a diagnostic check to determine the problem and recommend the best solution to fix it.
- Power Failure: Power issues range widely in severity, so you should have your engine looked at by a technician anytime that it experiences an unexpected loss of power.
- Strange Noises: A certain amount of noise is normal, but if your engine is suddenly making sounds it never has before—such as knocking, hissing, and popping sounds—you need to have it serviced as soon as possible.
- Declining Gas Mileage: If you’ve noticed that your engine is using up more fuel than usual, it could be time for a comprehensive tune-up. Your technician will be able to identify the issue and provide you with options for maximizing the fuel efficiency of your engine.
If you have experienced any of these issues with your diesel, it’s important to have it looked at by a trained professional. Early detection of engine problems is key to minimizing your repair costs. Seemingly minor issues can progress into more serious ones very quickly without the proper care. It’s also a good idea to consider a preventative maintenance plan to make sure that your engine will get the timely service it needs to perform reliably for years to come.
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